John Winzeler visits Poland 07.04.2007

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Veterans of Heifer International study tours were all asked the same question: Why Poland?

Some had traveled to China to visit with farmers benefitting from Heifer’s assistance with cattle and rabbit production.

Others visited coastal regions of India to observe innovative livestock projects in post-tsunami areas.

They’ve witnessed milk production and fish farming projects in Tanzania, sustainable agriculture efforts among women’s groups in Kenya and urban agriculture start-ups in Peru.

So why, with exotic locales such as these, are travelers heading to Poland? winzeler.soccer

John Winzeler of rural Fayette admits that the farming region of northeast Poland might be considered an odd vacation destination by most people, but that was part of the draw for everyone participating on the study tour in May. It’s a part of the world they had never seen.

“And it’s absolutely beautiful,” John said following his return last month.

But as far as agriculture is concerned, the area can prove challenging.

Most land isn’t considered the best for growing crops. Glacial till has left a lot of rocks in the soil. A short growing season makes the area suitable for rye, oats and potatoes—none of the corn and beans that are familiar in this part of the world.

Poland is challenged by the high standards for milk production set by the European Union. Although it’s an excellent territory for sheep, the country can’t compete with New Zealand in the wool market.

The agricultural hardships have led to a variety of projects through Heifer International. More than three dozen are on-going this year. Like China where John visited in the past, the Polish government is eager to cooperate with development efforts.passing_gift

The recent study group landed in Warsaw and headed north to rehabilitation centers and orphanages.

The rehab centers house ex-convicts, homeless people and recovering addicts. Many of the orphanage children are known as “social orphans,” taken to the homes by their parents who can’t afford to raise them.

In both locations, Heifer is helping to establish agricultural projects to improve nutrition and and teach people practical job skills. Projects involve pigs, chickens and fish ponds. Organic farming efforts help fill a growing demand in Europe.

In farming communities to the east, a variety of needs were addressed, from establishing meat sheep breeds in the Podkarpacie region to buying pregnant Polish Red heifers—an almost extinct native breed —for families near Lipsk.

In the Heifer International tradition, the offspring of the animals are passed on to another family so the original gift keeps on giving.

In Dolhobrody along the Belarus border, farmers can’t afford equipment to work their small plots of land, so Heifer is providing draft horses.

“They seem to have a fondness for horses,” John said. “They have a bond with their animals that we don’t see much anymore.”

What he saw was reminiscent of what he’s read about American life from decades ago.

“It’s like turning the clock back one hundred years,” John said. “I think they’re very good at what they do, but they won’t get wealthy because they don’t own enough land.”

Heifer International’s goal is to make sure people can continue to make an adequate living while staying home on the farm.

Study tours provide a variety of benefits. They allow Heifer International to get first-hand reports on the success of its investments. Entertaining foreign guests leads to a source of pride for the people receiving livestock as they show off their farm.

“Every family wants you to come to their house,” John said. “The receptions we received were amazing, and these are not wealthy people.”

John enjoys the mix of fellow travelers on study tours. With varied backgrounds and an interesting mix of professional work, it becomes a case of “the more minds the better.” Everyone looks over a project and sometimes someone will come up with an idea for a better way of doing things.

Heifer International has a reputation for not sticking with something that doesn’t work, John said. Programs will be altered, if needed, for the best success.

“I’d like to go back in two years and see how things have changed,” John said.

With Heifer International’s help, things continue to change in locations all around the world.

  • Front.nok Hok
    GAMES DAY—Finn Molitierno (right) celebrates a goal during a game of Nok Hockey with his sister, Kyla. The two tried out a variety of games Saturday at Stair District Library’s annual International Games Day event. One of the activities featured a sort of scavenger hunt in which participants had to locate facts presented in the Smithsonian Hometown Teams exhibit. The traveling show left Morenci’s library Tuesday, wrapping up a series of programs that began Oct. 2. Additional photos are on page 7.
  • Station.2
    STRANGE STUFF—Morenci Elementary School students learn that blue isn’t really blue when seen through the right color of lens. Volunteer April Pike presents the lesson to students at one of the many stations brought to the school by the COSI science center. The theme of this year’s visit was the solar system.
  • Front.leaves
    MAPLE leaves show their fall colors in a puddle at Morenci’s Riverside Natural Area. “This was a great year for colors,” said local weather watcher George Isobar. Chilly mornings will give way to seasonable fall temperatures for the next two weeks.
  • Front.band
    MORENCI Marching Band member Brittany Dennis keeps the beat Friday during the half-time show of the Morenci/Pittsford football game. Color guard member Jordan Cordts is at the left. The band performed this season under the direction of Doyle Rodenbeck who served as Morenci’s band director in the 1970s. He’s serving as a substitute during a family leave.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016